Do you consider yourself a wine connoisseur? Have you ever asked what is wine made of? Are you fascinated by this popular beverage and its millennia old history, but curious as to what actually goes into making a bottle of your favorite Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon? If so, then we have just the blog post for you! Today’s guide will give you an in-depth look at the processes, ingredients and tools involved in winemaking. Learn how grapes are blended together to bring out flavors unique to each region, how wine is aged and preserved, plus other essential information – all of which will help take your knowledge of one of mankind’s oldest and most beloved beverages to the next level!
Table of Contents
Grapes: The Principal Answer Of What Is Wine Made Of
The fact that grapes are the primary ingredients in winemaking is common knowledge. Nonetheless, many people ignore the nature of other components of wine. The current text shall be a guide to the winemaking process and will provide definite answers to the question: What is wine made of?
Vitis vinifera, the common grape vine, is the grape species globally predominant in winemaking. People have cultivated it for thousands of years, and its native range stretches from Europe to western Asia. Though there are hundreds of Vitis vinifera grapes, the red varieties most commonly used in making wine are the red varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
The juice of these grapes is fermented with yeast to create wine, although some white wines use slightly different processes. Vitis vinifera grapes contain various compounds that contribute to wines’ flavor, structure and color.
In addition to the notable compounds in wine grapes, such as tannin and acidity, Vitis vinifera grapes contain a range of aromatic compounds that contribute to the flavors of wines. With suitable climate and soil conditions, Vitis vinifera grapes can make some of the world’s most extraordinary wines.
The Ideal Climatic and Soil Conditions for Winemaking Grapes
The ideal climate and soil conditions for grapes that make wine are warm, sunny days and cool nights to promote the growth of flavor compounds in the grapes. The soils should be well-drained with moderate nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus levels and trace minerals. Good air circulation is also essential to minimize disease risk and keep grapes from becoming too ripe.
Adequate air circulation also helps create the temperature variations necessary for the slow maturation of flavors in wines. Additionally, satisfactory drainage and consistent water supplies are crucial for healthy grape vines.
Winemakers Choose The Ideal Time of Harvesting And Size Of Grape
The criteria for harvesting grape varieties that make wine include timing, maturity, and size. It is crucial to pick the grapes at the right time for optimal ripeness. Winemakers pick the grapes when ripe enough to have high sugar content and low acid levels. The grapes should also be mature enough so that they have developed their flavor and texture.
The optimal size of grape berries for winemaking depends on the wine’s intended style and desired flavors. Generally, smaller grapes tend to have more intense colors, aromas, and flavors than larger ones. This is because small-sized berry skins contain a higher proportion of flavor compounds due to their high ratio of surface area to juice content. Small-sized berries also have a more concentrated juice, allowing the wine to quickly obtain its desired sugar content.
Ultimately, the optimal size of grape berries for winemaking depends on the desired style and flavors of the wine. For white wines, the producers choose larger berries due to their lower tannin levels, which can provide a softer, more subtle flavor. Therefore, smaller grapes, such as red wines, are often preferred when making wines that require a high intensity of flavor and color.
The Most Important Grape Varieties in the Wine Production Process
Many of the most important grape varieties in winemaking come from the Vitis vinifera species. These include popular red grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah; white grapes, like Chardonnay and Riesling; and rosé varieties, such as Pinot Gris and Grenache.
Each of these grapes has specific characteristics that make it ideal for certain styles of wine, such as intense or subtle flavors, deep color, and a wide range of fruit notes. Additionally, many winemakers blend different grape varieties to create complex wines with distinctive flavor profiles.
The Fundamental Chemical Constituents Of Grapes In Wine Making
A grape’s most important chemical constituents for the winemaking process are aromatics, tannins, acids, and sugars. Aromatics create distinctive floral and fruity flavors in wines, while tannins structure them. Acids give wines their zesty notes, while sugars contribute to the sweetness and alcohol levels. Phenols, compounds in grape skins and seeds, also play an important role in flavor formation.
These chemicals all interact with each other to create the complex flavors and aromas that make the wine unique. Additionally, winemakers can manipulate these components throughout the winemaking process to tailor wines to their desired styles and tastes.
The Procedures Of How Wine Is Made
The procedures in wine production are classified into two major categories: Pre-fermentation and post-fermentation. The pre-fermentation procedures are the following: destemming, grape sorting, crushing, maceration, de-juicing, pressing, and must clarification.
Destemming is the process of removing grape stems from the clusters before fermentation. During this step, winemakers may separate unripe berries to avoid spoilage and undesired flavors in their wines. The process also ensures a higher extraction of juice from the grapes and better color stability during fermentation.
Grape sorting is essential in winemaking and helps ensure good wine quality. After harvesting, wine producers sort the grapes according to size, ripeness, and condition. Before fermentation, they remove any damaged or unripe berries, preventing off-aromas and flavors in the wine.
Additionally, winemakers may choose to sort their grapes according to the desired style of wine they are trying to create. For example, lighter-bodied wines often require smaller berries than bigger reds.
The winemakers mash the grapes during the crushing stage to extract their juices. They utilize a crusher machine that squeezes out the juice from the fruit. Crushing also helps to release certain chemical compounds from the skins and seeds, allowing for more flavor and color development during fermentation.
Crushing is essential for creating certain styles of wine, such as bold reds full of tannins and complexity. Also, crushing the grapes helps ensure even extraction from each berry, resulting in a better-quality finished product.
Maceration is a fundamental step in the winemaking process. It helps to develop flavor, color, and tannin compounds in wine. During maceration, the wine producers soak the grape skins in the juice for a while before fermentation. This leads to the extraction of certain chemical compounds from the skins into the liquid, including tannins, pigments, and flavor compounds.
The amount of time maceration takes can vary from hours to weeks, depending on the desired style of the wine. Maceration can also take place after fermentation for certain types of wine. Ultimately, this process helps the production of wines with expressive and pleasing flavor profiles.
Dejuicing facilitates the separation of juice from solids before fermentation. The process proceeds by hand or a pressing device, depending on the size and quality of the grapes. Dejuicing ensures that only pure grape juice ferments, resulting in a higher extraction rate from the skins. This process can also help to separate any unwanted solids or particles from the juice, preventing them from spoiling the wine.
Pressing is another integral part of the winemaking process and is necessary to extract juice from solids. The size and quality of grapes are the principal determinants of pressing, which separates the grape juice from the other grape components.
Pressing also achieves a high extraction rate from the berries and contributes to flavor complexity in the finished product. It also ensures that only pure grape juice is used for fermentation, resulting in better-quality wines.
Must clarification is a crucial step in the winemaking process that facilitates the removal of unwanted particles from grape juice before fermentation. Settling, fining, and filtering are the main must clarification methods.
Additionally, this process reduces the amount of cloudiness in the wine, giving it a more appealing appearance. Ultimately, must clarification is a vital step in winemaking that no one should overlook when producing high-quality wines.
All the above stages lead to the most paramount aspect of how wine is made, alcoholic fermentation. The choice of a suitable yeast strain and the ideal environmental conditions are the most crucial determinants of the entire wine production process.
Alcoholic Fermentation Process
Alcoholic fermentation is the process of converting sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide through yeast. Wine grapes are naturally high in sugar, which provides the ideal environment for yeasts to thrive on and convert those sugars into ethanol. This occurs during the primary fermentation process, where the yeast consumes the sugar from the grape juice and produces alcohol as a byproduct.
Alcoholic fermentation is a necessary step in winemaking to create wines that are alcoholic and have distinct flavor profiles. This process also helps preserve the wine, as alcohol acts as an antioxidant, preventing spoilage. The alcohol content depends on the sugar content and type of yeast used but can range from 7-14% by volume.
Yeasts are essential for the winemaking process as they are responsible for the alcoholic fermentation of grape juice. Different types of yeasts can be used in winemaking, depending on the desired flavor profile and style of wine. The most common type of yeast used in winemaking is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which can convert sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
This alcoholic fermentation process helps to preserve the wine, as the alcohol acts as an antioxidant that prevents spoilage. Additionally, different yeasts can contribute unique flavors and aromas to the wine, providing complexity and depth. As such, it is important for winemakers to understand which type of yeast will be most suitable for the style of wine they produce.
Malolactic Fermentation Process
Another necessary fermentation process in winemaking production is malolactic fermentation. Malolactic fermentation (MLF) is a secondary fermentation process that converts malic acid into lactic acid, resulting in a softer and rounder final product.
Various bacteria, such as Lactobacillus or Oenococcus, initiate this process and facilitate the creation of complexity in the finished wine. MLF is not necessary for all wines and can be omitted if the desired flavor profile of the final product does not require it.
MLF reduces the acidity in a wine, creating a smoother texture that compliments the other flavors present. This process also contributes unique aromas, such as buttery or nutty notes, which are desirable in some wines.
Overall, MLF is an essential step in winemaking that can contribute significantly to the flavor and quality of the finished product. Additionally, it helps reduce the levels of sulfites, such as sulfur dioxide, in wine, making it more suitable for those with allergies or sensitivities to sulfites. Sulfites are major wine preservatives, with sulfur dioxide being the most utilized.
After fermentation is complete, wine producers will typically begin the process of aging. This involves storing the wine in appropriate containers for an extended period to allow for flavor and aroma development. During this period, the tannins soften and develop more complex aromas. Depending on the wine’s desired style and flavor profile, this process can take anywhere from a few months to several years.
Additionally, winemakers may combine different batches of wines to create a unique product. This step is particularly important for creating blended wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot blends. Blending allows the winemaker to create a balanced and complex wine with specific characteristics.
Finally, the winemakers bottle and label the wines and prepare them for sale. Labelling typically includes information about the producer, vintage year, type of grape variety used, alcohol content, and other information that can help customers make an educated purchase. After bottling, the wines are ready to be shipped and enjoyed by others.
Most wines have the above production stages, but there are notable differences depending on the type of wine produced (red wine, white wine, rosé wine). These differences in the production methods of red wines, white wines and rosé wines are the subject of the following paragraphs.
What is red wine made of?
A wine enthusiast should comprehend the differences underlying the production processes of red, white, and rosé wines. The most fundamental attributes that differentiate the above types of wine are color and flavor.
A wine’s color derives from the grape skins utilized for its production. When making red wines, the wine producers retain the grape skins and seeds and omit the must clarification stage. As the wine ferments, the grape skins and seeds significantly contribute to red wines’ distinctive color and flavor.
A primary trait that contributes heavily to the flavor of red wines is the presence of tannins. Tannins are phenolic compounds naturally present in grape skins, and their principal role is to intensify the red wine’s flavor. Their presence in red wine is partly due to the specific aging techniques in oak barrels.
The wine aging procedure in oak barrels facilitates the oxidation process, which is partly beneficial for red wines. The oxidation process contributes to red wine’s distinctive and rich flavor, but wine producers should not leave this chemical reaction unchecked. The inhibition of oxidation is possible even in oak barrels by adjusting the environmental conditions. Some winemakers also choose the option of different barrels, an old-school solution but consistently effective.
What is white wine made of?
Producing white and red wines involves similar processes, such as fermentation and aging. However, there are some differences that can result in unique characteristics for each type of wine. Generally speaking, when producing white wines, the grapes are crushed, and then their juice is separated from the skins and seeds before being fermented into alcohol. This produces a light-bodied and slightly fruity wine.
In addition to the separation of grape skins and seeds, the second paramount difference in producing red and white wine is the site of the aging process. Red wine production occurs in oak barrels, while white wine production takes place in stainless steel tanks. The tanks significantly reduce the oxidation process because it negatively impacts the quality of white wine.
Furthermore, the flavors of white wines are entirely different from the ones in red wines. The acids primarily responsible for the characteristic crisp flavors are tartaric, malic, and citric acid. The latter acids are present naturally in all wines, but the absence of a significant amount of tannins leaves these acids as the main determinants of a white wine’s flavor.
The absence of a respectable amount of tannins brings forth a principal technological flaw for white wines, though. The tannins of red wines precipitate the excessive protein content, which tends to agglomerate and reduce the aesthetic perception of a wine.
Since white wines are bereft of the beneficial impact of tannins on this matter, several winemakers choose to utilize the chemical substance of bentonite clay. Bentonite clay is the best protein-fining agent, and its usage decisively solves the problem of hazing white wines.
Another significant difference between red and white wines is the aging of white wines for shorter periods than red wines. This results in a more crisp and acidic flavor profile with fewer complex aromas, whereas red wines often develop deeper and more nuanced flavors over longer aging periods.
What is rose wine made of?
Rose wine is made by a process called saignée, which involves taking off the skins of red grapes early in the fermentation process. This extracts less color and tannins from the grape skins while the fermentation continues until it reaches the desired sweetness and acidity level.
Due to its popularity, many winemakers now employ newer methods, such as direct pressing or blending red and white wines to create rose wines. These techniques allow for greater control over the flavor profile of the final product. The resulting wine has a light pink color, delicate aromas, and a refreshing flavor profile ranging from slightly sweet to dry.
Check out our guide to the Barolo red wine.
How Are Dry And Sweet Wines Made?
All the above descriptions of how natural wines are made fail to capture broader categories, such as sweet and dry wines.
Dry wines obviously do not derive from grapes harvested in dry regions; their name originates from how the wines taste.
Generally, dry wines are wines in which the sugar content is so low that it cannot be tasted. These wines typically have a higher alcohol content, making them full-bodied and powerful on the palate. Dry wines often have aromas of dark fruits such as blackcurrant and plum, along with earthy leather and tobacco notes.
On the other hand, sweet wines are those with higher sugar content, making them sweet and full-bodied on the palate. Sweet wines can be made from either red or white grape varieties and tend to have intense aromas of ripe fruit, honey, caramel, and other sweet notes. These wines often have low levels of acidity, making them smoother and more balanced to the taste.
The Perks Of Knowing What Is Wine Made Of
The not-so-simple process of making wine requires rewarding compensation after such an arduous task. Therefore, many wineries opt to organize open houses where wine enthusiasts can visit them and taste the exquisite products stored in their wine cellars. Having a glass of any of the quality wines available is usually an exhilarating experience, and the visit to the winery is an opportunity to attain first-hand knowledge of how a wine is made and what wine is made of.